[From Messages in a Bottle: Communication Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost available June 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon.]
It’s seven o’clock and you’re finishing up the dishes before starting bedtime baths. And then it starts…the whining…every. single. night. Your four-year-old knows the routine. She knows you are going to read her favorite bedtime book. She knows you will let her choose which pajamas to wear. She knows she does have to brush her teeth. But that doesn’t stop her from standing in the kitchen night after night whining about the same things. So what’s the deal? Short-term memory loss? An innate desire to drive you crazy? A disorder of the vocal cords that makes using a normal voice impossible after the sun sets and every time she doesn’t get her way all. day. long?!?
Here’s a shocker for you: Whining is actually a sign of maturity! Yep, that unnerving, endless, nails-on-a-chalkboard, make-your-head-explode whine is a sign that your little one is growing up and, get this, gaining self-control! I can see your heads shaking, but read on, parents, caregivers, and bleeding ears of the world, read on.
Whining, believe it or not, is an advanced skill. Babies come into the world with exactly one form of communication~crying. Every need, every discomfort, every bit of loneliness or anxiety or frustration or stress has to be communicated through that one single venue. Over time as babies grow into toddlers, they begin to learn new ways to communicate, pointing, grunting, picking up a few words here and there, and they move into a more interactive stage wherein they make attempts to communicate in these new ways, but fall back very quickly into crying if they aren’t understood and responded to quickly.
As time goes on, toddlerhood gives way to the preschool years and language skills advance, becoming the main source of communication for a little one. But even so, their grasp of language is limited and their prefrontal cortexes (center of forethought/prethinking skills) are underdeveloped. This leads to a rather dichotomous situation in which they know what they want to say, but often can’t quite put the words together quickly or clearly enough for us oh-so-impatient adults.
As they work to communicate, their frustration levels rise and stress hormones sap the blood flow from those underdeveloped ‘thinking’ portions of their brains and, just when they need the use of language the most, they begin to lose the ability to articulate their needs. As toddlers, they would fall quickly back into crying at this point, but as preschoolers, their more advanced self-control helps them to avoid immediately dissolving into tears and, instead, they fall into the ‘middle-ground’ of whining.
Whining is, in fact, just an advanced form of crying and, as such, is just as grating on the nerves as crying because it is designed to get the attention of a caregiver. The difference is actually in our attitudes toward whining. We accept crying as a normal part of baby and toddlerhood, but label the whining of a preschooler ‘bratty’ and ‘spoiled’ and refuse to listen to them until they ‘use their normal voice’…just when they need us to listen the most!
If we, the adults, would adjust our mindsets to accept the normalcy of whining, it would lose a bit of its power to annoy and enable us to respond empathetically to our children when they’re mustering all their newly-developed coping skills to avoid a meltdown.
So, what can we do when our little ones lapse into ‘whine-eze’ and we feel like tearing our hair out? Well, as always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Pay attention to the times of day whining seems to occur regularly and watch for triggers such as hunger, missed naps, over-hurried schedules, etc. and make what adjustments you can to prevent the whining before it starts next time.
If all else fails and the whining does commence, remember that your little one is struggling to communicate in that moment. Respond by slowing down, sitting with them or kneeling down in front of them, and giving them your full attention. Use a quiet, soothing tone to reassure them, and listen patiently all the way through as they work their way back through the frustration and find the words to express themselves. You may not be able to give them the toy or snack or whatever else it is they want at that moment, but giving them the chance to be heard is often enough to forestall an all-out meltdown.
More than anything, though, giving your little ones the gift of your time and attention when they need it most (and often deserve it least!) will help foster that all-important connection that provides the basis for gentle guidance and boundary-setting. And, as an added bonus, children who feel heard tend to outgrow the whining stage much earlier than children who feel like they have to fight to be heard!
One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar. Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My!
We’ve added a Dr Seuss Quiet Bag to our Parenting in Public: Toddler Time page, and we’re working on a Dr Seuss Quiet Book, too!
The most challenging, independent children tend to be the ones who need the most intentional parental reconnection. Strong will=Strong need! Testing the Boundaries~What’s A Parent To Do?
Joe glared at the rows of tuna cans in front of him, willing the wailing child in the cart at the end of the aisle to just SHUT UP ALREADY! Seriously, where were the kid’s parents anyway? He snatched a couple of cans and dropped them in his cart with a clatter, then pushed his cart down the aisle toward the noisy troublemaker, intent on giving the negligent parents a pointed stare as he passed.
As Joe drew up alongside the child who was now kicking and flailing her arms in addition to that awful caterwauling, he noticed a man with the same towheaded curls as the child standing close by her side. Surely, he thought, that’s got to be the father. Why doesn’t he DO something?
Joe watched in anger and disbelief as the father gently stroked the little girl’s arm and whispered soothingly. What?!? The kid was throwing a fit in public, and all her father was going to do was comfort her? Joe gritted his teeth and tried to escape the irritating pair, casting a disapproving glance at the duo as he sailed by.
A few aisles over, the crying was muted, and Joe sighed in relief. He continued his shopping in peace for a while, grabbing his bottled water and some frozen mackerel, but then found himself confronted by the pair again three aisles later when he landed in the snack department at the precise time the child almost knocked over a stack of Oreos with her flailing.
Joe shook his head in disgust when the father merely cradled her into a loose hug and scooted his cart further away from the cookies. Joe stomped by, barely missing a Fig Newton display in his haste to get away from the fit-throwing child and weak-willed father.
Pitching fits in public, he grumbled, rattling his cart noisily toward the checkout lanes. People don’t know how to control children anymore, he muttered under his breath as he stood in line.
He stiffened as he heard a deep voice he recognized coming from the next checkout lane. He couldn’t see over the tall displays separating the lanes, but he’d recognize that father’s voice anywhere!
“Daddy’s got you, Nina,” the deep voice was saying. “Just lay your head on my shoulder, and we’ll be home soon.”
“Wan’ mama,” whined a little voice tiredly.
A soft sigh reached Joe’s ears, then a choked voice, “Mama lives in Heaven now, baby girl. But Daddy’s got you. Daddy’s got you.”
Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…(James 1:19)
Communication vs. Miscommunication
Image via ImageWorld.com
As a child, I loved to find a little ‘hidey-hole’ and tuck myself away from the big, big world for awhile. Somehow, sitting in a closet quietly singing to a much-loved babydoll, hiding in the leafy bower of an old grandfather oak with my nose in a book, or throwing a blanket over an end-table and crawling under it with a flashlight just made the world a little smaller, a little friendlier, a little less overwhelming. I remember feeling safe. I remember listening to the sound of my breathing, just listening. I remember closing my eyes and daydreaming, the cadence of my breath the only sound in the stillness.
It was there in the stillness, in the wanderings of my imagination, that I processed the brokenness of a broken home, adapted to the subsequent juggling of two homes, coped with the eventual abandonment by a father, and, over time, unlocked my guarded heart to a new father. It was in the smallness, in the microcosm of my own creation, that the big world shrunk down and the chaos receded and life’s mountains became surmountable molehills.
With my own children, I’ve fallen in love anew with the ‘hidey-hole.’ Whether it’s a fort of sofa cushions, a sheet with the ends tied to dining room chairs, a blanket hung over a coffee table, or the tree house built by my amazing hubby, my children’s imaginations take flight. And, as they make clubhouse signs and set about ‘nesting’ in their little corner of the world, their muffled giggles and busy chatter make my heart sing.
I pray that the big, big world out there is kind to my children, that they never know sadness, never taste bitterness, never experience disillusionment. But I know better. I know life can and will challenge and even hurt them. I know people will disappoint and hearts will be broken and dreams will be shattered.
But I also know that in the quiet places God’s still, small voice can be heard whispering comfort. I know that in the simplicity of play the complexity of life can be sorted like puzzle pieces joined to reveal a picture. And I know that in the nooks and niches we carve out for ourselves even as adults, the world seems a little smaller, a little friendlier, and a little less overwhelming.
[Reprinted with permission from The Gentle Parent: Discipline Tips, Tools, and Techniques by L.R.Knost available November 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]
You look a little frazzled, Dude. Hard day?
Man, I love my mommy to pieces, but seriously, she does NOT know how to share. I took one little thing out of her purse, and she freaked! Snatching and saying, “Mine!” and everything. And right in the middle of the store, too! So embarrassing. Everybody was looking at me, rolling their eyes. I felt like a total failure.
I hear you! I have the same problem. And mine has been getting into EVERYTHING, too! Like, I stashed my cracker under the couch so I could have a little snack later, and she totally threw it in the trash! Who does that?
You think that’s bad? Check this. I’m minding my own business, just chillin’ with my toys, and she just snatches me up and carts me off and straps me in the highchair, no warning at all. And I’m not even hungry! Then she gets all upset when I do a little physics with my food. Btw, so cool how sometimes it falls straight down and sometimes it splats against the wall. I think it has something to do with the consistency of the food and the angle of my trajectory. Just a working theory atm, though.
Cool! Let me know what you figure out. How about this. I can’t get anything done! No joke! I spent all morning building this stellar block tower. Dude, you should have seen this thing. It was epic! So, I walk away for like one second, and she dumps the whole thing in the toy box! An entire morning’s work, gone. I don’t know why I bother sometimes.
Same! And what’s with this new ‘time-out’ thing mine’s into all of a sudden? I get the slightest bit upset about something, and, just when I need a cuddle, she sticks me in this chair and won’t let me get up! Like a chair is a good hugger? Really?
That is just wrong. Hey, how about this whole potty training dealio? She wants me to do my business in a little plastic bowl. We eat out of those things! Seriously, you gotta wonder what goes on in their brains sometimes.
You’re lucky. Mine keeps propping me up on that big white contraption with water in it. I could drown! And you should see what happens when she pushes down that handle in the back. Can you say vortex of DOOM?!?
Not cool, Dude, not cool at all! Are you dealing with tantrums yet? Mine has got a temper like you wouldn’t believe! Anytime she doesn’t get her way, watch out for the fireworks! She yells and flaps her arms and stomps around, and, I hate to say it, but she’s starting to hit. Like that’s going to solve anything. I have no idea how to handle these aggression issues! Why can’t they just be reasonable like us?
I think it’s a communication issue, myself. I mean, they’re just barely starting to understand us when we talk to them, so I try to cut mine a little slack when she starts getting frustrated. I just stay close, maybe pat her arm or offer her a toy. Sometimes she settles down a bit and starts smiling again, but sometimes she just needs a little time to calm down. I stay present, though, so she knows I’m always there for her.
I think you’re messing up there, Dude. You need to walk away, just walk away and let her deal. If you comfort her, she’ll expect you to help her process her emotions, and that’ll lead to dependency issues, mark my words! When she freaks, you’ve got to force her to control herself! When she’s ready to be reasonable and listen, then you can be friends again.
I don’t know. Mine flat out won’t listen. I can’t tell you how many times I have to ask her to play with me before she finally looks up from her toy. What is it with parents and electronics, anyway? And then all she does is say, “Just a minute, hon.” What exactly is a minute, btw?
‘Just a minute’ means ‘This is more important than you,’ Dude. Come on, get with the program. You have to make them pay attention! Yell. Throw something. Bite the cat. Whatever it takes! Don’t let them get away with disrespecting you like that or they’ll never pay attention.
Word. Talk about getting with the program, how do you handle the sleep issues? I just cannot take another sleepless night! She keeps me up for hours every. single. night. It starts out great, bath-time, a book and cuddles, but then she just clocks out like I’m some kind of a toy she can switch off when it gets dark! And, man, is it dark. I don’t know what’s living in my closet, but it is ginormous!
Sleep training, Dude! It’s the only way. They turn that light out and shut the door, you follow them! Every time. Or, if you’re too scared (totally get that, btw) then just start hollering and don’t stop. If you can’t sleep, make sure they can’t, either! And don’t give in. Not even once. You let them get away with that stuff one time, and you’ll never get any sleep, ever! They have to learn that it’s their job to take care of you day and night, even if all you need is a hug!
Got it. Oh, man, here she comes. Seriously, do you have this problem, too? We’re at the park. Everybody’s having a good time. And she just up and decides to leave. I think she’s got some anti-social tendencies. I’m thinking of having her tested.
Same here! But I’m working on it. They’ve got to learn it’s not all about them, and it’s our job to teach them. Look, here comes mine, too. Watch and learn, Dude. I’m using the arched-back, flail and wail today. Deep breath and, “No! No! Noooooo…”
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
Parenting is soooo tiring and frustrating at times. Sometimes you just want to sit a small child down and say, “Do you know how much easier your life (and mine!) would be if you’d just be REASONABLE?!?” But we know that wouldn’t do any good because the words ‘reasonable’ and ‘toddler/preschooler’ just don’t play well together. The thing to remember is that gentle parenting doesn’t mean parenting without boundaries.
Believe it or not, the foundation for discipline (guiding, leading, teaching…NOT punishment ) begins in the newborn and infancy stages. When parents respond quickly, consistently, and gently to their baby’s cries, the trust relationship that the parent is establishing becomes the cornerstone for later discipline. Boundaries need to be established for a child’s safety and growth into a successful citizen of our world. A child who is secure in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to fight to be heard or to have his needs met is more open and adaptable to limits. And when the ‘limit-setter’ is a person the child trusts, the enforcement of those boundaries becomes a matter of connection and communication instead of conflict and struggle.
So, what might setting and enforcing boundaries using gentle parenting look like in real life? Here are a few examples:
- Your 18 month old has begun hitting you whenever you try the ‘remove and distract’ method of keeping her from sticking things into power outlets. In addition to covering the outlets with safety covers, a gentle parenting approach to hitting at this age would be to gently hold your child’s hand when she tries to hit, look her in the eye, and say quietly and firmly, “Gentle” or “Gentle hands,” while stroking your cheek with her hand. This sets a boundary that hitting is not okay while demonstrating what behavior is acceptable. Don’t expect this to be a one-time deal, though. Little ones learn through consistent and patient repetition.
- Your 2 year old drops to the ground in limp protest every time you try to leave ANYWHERE! First, giving a toddler some warning that a change is about to occur respects their often intense interest in and focus on their own activities. A gentle parenting approach might be to utilize the ‘countdown to leaving’ method to give them a time context (i.e. “Five more minutes! That means you have enough time for five more horsey rides on grandpa’s back!”… “Four more minutes! That means you can have four more jumps into the ballpit!”… “Three more minutes! That means you have enough time to build three more towers and knock them down!”… “Two minutes left! That means you have enough time to go down the slide two more times!”… “One more minute! That means you can look at one more book!”). Remember, children aren’t little robots we can just upload the right program into and expect it to work perfectly every time, so when your little human still impersonates a limp noodle despite your best efforts, quietly acknowledge his distress, “It’s hard to leave when you’re having fun, isn’t it?” and then gently pick him up and move him to the car/stroller, etc.
- Your 3 year old flat out refuses to wear shoes, period. In addition to giving choices, “Do you want to wear the red boots or the blue sneakers today?” and offering her the opportunity to assert her independence, “Would you like to put your shoes on yourself or do you want mommy to help?” sometimes all that is needed is a simple question, “Why don’t you want to wear shoes?” Three year olds are typically becoming articulate enough that, if they aren’t already stressed, they can do a pretty good job of explaining themselves. You might be surprised to hear something like, “Tomowow my boos hut my toes,” which when translated means, “The last time I wore my boots they hurt my feet, and now I think all shoes will hurt me.” Moving on to a more verbal communication stage of your relationship with your child when they’re ready might seem a no-brainer, but parents often get caught up in patterns of parenting from previous stages and it just doesn’t occur to them to simply ask their child what’s wrong. Again, this won’t always work, so when your little bohemian still rejects all things soled, calmly let her know that she will remain in the stroller/sling/cart and not do any walking until she decides she’s ready to put on her shoes.
One other note about parental boundaries is that it’s not just your children who will challenge them! Everyone and their mother (or especially their mother!) will take every ‘misbehavior’ by your child as an opportunity to give you unsolicited and often unwanted advice. Remember, when it comes down to it, it’s you, the parent, who determines what limits to set. Mrs. In-My-Day, Cousin Know-It-All, Mr. My-Way-Is-The-Only-Way, and Neighbor Nose-In-Everyone-Else’s-Business all have their own ideas that make sense to them, and that’s fine, but you are not them! You the unique parent of a unique individual, and you have the sole responsibility to raise that individual as you see fit (with reasonable limits set by your community as to what constitutes abuse, neglect, etc).
In practical application, boundaries do reflect the culture and environment in which a child lives. In a small, rural community in Spain, doors may be left open day and night and the neighbors may all be related. Small children might have the freedom to wander in and out of houses, play ball in the middle of the road, and plop down for an afternoon nap on a neighbor’s sofa. In a busy, urban city such as New York, doors may be kept locked, people may never have even met their neighbors, and playing in the street might be tantamount to a child endangerment charge.
The point is that boundaries aren’t a one-size-fits-all list that you can buy from Barnes & Noble, put on the fridge, and slap a sticker on every time a child complies. Boundaries are personal limits determined by the parent’s values and priorities and culture as well as reflecting the age and maturity of their child and the unique attributes of their community.
It may ‘take a village’ to raise a child, but remember, it’s you, the parent, who’s the leader of your tribe!
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
~~Who are you raising, parents, Pinky or The Brain?~~
Steven Spielberg’s short-lived spinoff of the popular Animaniacs series in the 1990’s was a farcical tale of two mice and their ill-fated attempts to take over the world of men. The Brain was a maniacal manipulator and dastardly deceiver who plotted endless ways and means to get what he wanted. Pinky, by contrast, was a guileless and childlike mouse, who continually foiled his counterpart’s plans with his trusting and good-natured ways.
The Brain…master manipulator, diabolical deceiver, cunning conniver.
Pinky…innocent ingénue, naïve neophyte, artless amateur.
Both small, both mice…mirror images, one evil, one good.
So, parents, are you raising Pinky or The Brain? A sweet, innocent child or a cunning, manipulative liar? It’s vital that you decide, because your perception of who your child is and what motivates them will influence not only your attitude toward your child, but your response to your child as well.
“My two-year-old is a little dictator.”
“That kid is going to be a handful when she grows up.”
“My newborn pitches a fit when I change him.”
“Gotta go. The brat needs me.”
“My six-month-old is so stubborn.”
“Here comes trouble.”
“She’s spoiled rotten.”
“My two-year-old is a little genius.”
“That girl is going to be somebody special when she grows up.”
“My newborn cries when I change him, poor little guy.”
“Gotta go. My little angel needs me.”
“My six-month-old is so smart.”
“Here comes my little man.”
“My little lady knows what she wants.”
Look at the contrast in descriptive phrases: little dictator, a handful, pitches a fit, brat, stubborn, trouble, spoiled rotten…little genius, somebody special, poor little guy, little angel, smart, little man, little lady. Let’s face it, parents, we’re human. And, as humans, we are far more likely to respond kindly to someone who we see in a positive light. No one likes to feel used or lied to or manipulated, and the words we use to characterize our children’s behavior not only reveal what our feelings are toward our children themselves, but also will strongly influence our responses to them.
- A baby cries in the night. The parent who hears the cry as communicating a need will respond quickly and consistently. The parent who hears the cry as angling for attention will likely ignore the cries.
- A toddler has a meltdown. The parent who sees a small child overwhelmed by big emotions and unable to articulate his needs will respond with empathy. The parent who sees a stubborn little dictator pitching a fit because he didn’t get his own way will typically ignore or punish the toddler.
- A preschooler complains of a stomach ache every morning before being dropped off at daycare. The parent who hears a vulnerable child with limited language skills trying, in the only way she can, to express the loneliness and anxiety she feels at the daily separation will respond with understanding and comfort. The parent who hears a lie and feels manipulated will likely react with anger or impatience.
- A child comes home from school and has a meltdown when asked if he has any homework. The parent who sees a little person overwhelmed and struggling will respond with compassion and assistance. The parent who sees a lazy spoiled brat will typically react with yelling and demands.
- A teenager screams, “You don’t understand me!” The parent who hears the hurt and need behind the words will stop talking and start listening. The parent who hears rebellion and disrespect will likely respond with anger or a lecture.
Parents around the world and across the ages have listened to the cry of a baby, coped with a toddler’s meltdown, confronted a child’s will, and faced an adolescent’s attitude, and in each and every case the motivation that the parents attributed to the behavior has been the single most determining factor in the parents’ response. But the impact of the parents’ perception is even more powerful than just a momentary appropriate or inappropriate response.
Hear this carefully, parents…Who you think you are raising is who you will raise.
If you call a child a liar often enough, they will become deceptive. If you treat a child like they are manipulating you often enough, they will become conniving. If you label a child a spoiled brat, they will become impudent and rebellious.
By the same token, if you treat a child like a priceless gift, your own special angel to care for until they spread their wings and fly out on their own one day, they will become a blessing, not only to you, but to the world.
So who are you raising, parents, Pinky or The Brain? A sweet, innocent child or a cunning, manipulating liar? Remember, who you think you’re raising is who you will raise!
[Reprinted with permission from the introduction to The Gentle Parent: Discipline Tips, Tools, and Techniques by L.R.Knost available November 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]
Challenging behavior in our children can be really…well, challenging! How do you ‘handle’ a child who suddenly refuses to wear shoes or sit in her carseat/seatbelt or eat, period? Here are some tips to help you regain that snuggly, loving relationship you used to enjoy before your baby became a…shudder…PERSON!
1.) Remove the word ‘handle’ from your parenting vocabulary entirely. Your child isn’t a lion to be tamed or a dog to be trained! He’s a person, an individual with thoughts, interests, concerns, wants, and needs that are totally separate from yours. Respecting him as a separate individual not only models the value we need to place on others in our homes and communities, but also sets the stage for a mutually respectful relationship in his teen years and beyond.
2.) Slow down! Often simplifying our lives is the key to simplifying our parenting issues. Rushing a child from one activity to the next doesn’t expand her horizons; it stunts her creativity and inherent zest for life, which are the building blocks of a life-long love of learning. When she digs her heels in, pay attention! She’s trying to communicate a very deep need for time and space to learn about the world, to play and grow, and to just ‘be.’
3.) Small children have very little control over their lives, and the more powerless they feel, the more likely they are to make eating, getting dressed, going to the potty, etc. a battle of wills. Giving choices, engaging your child in making plans, and being flexible and responsive on a daily basis are good ‘proactive’ parenting, but little people are notorious for their awkward timing in deciding to suddenly assert their independence! Be prepared for those challenging moments by deciding ahead of time how you will respond. (See below for some ideas!)
4.) Listen, listen, listen! The first question parents ask me is almost always, “How do I get my child to listen?” And my first response is usually, “How well do you listen?” As Ralph Waldo Emerson so aptly put it, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” In other words, our children learn best by imitation. If every time our little ones ask for our attention we say, “Just a minute,” then we cannot expect instant attention from them. If when they speak to us our eyes constantly stray back to our computers and iphones, we should not be surprised if they have a hard time looking at us when we ask them to. Listening is a two-way street that starts and ends with us, the adults.
5.) Boundaries are our friends! Many people believe that Gentle Parenting is a form of un-parenting, but nothing could be further from the truth. Gentle Parenting is involved parenting~interactive, engaged, active parenting. It takes focused attention, planning, participation, research, and so much more to be an empathetic, responsive parent who is in tune with their child’s needs and who is prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to meet those needs. That said, in any home, like in any civilized society, boundaries are necessary for everyone’s safety and comfort. It is in the choosing and enforcing of those boundaries that Gentle Parenting distinguishes itself. In a Gently Parented home, boundaries are focused on guiding rather than controlling children and are enforced through empathetic and creative resolutions rather than harsh punitive consequences. (See below for some ideas!)
6.) Watch your attitude! Do you have angry eyes? A sharp tone? Do you issue commands and demand compliance? Do you sigh and roll your eyes when frustrated with your little one? All of these things contribute to creating resistance in children. Really, who wants to cooperate with someone who is demanding, impatient, sarcastic, angry, etc? Does feeling like a burden or a failure ever motivate anyone? Is a desire to please rooted in correction or connection? Think about how you like to be treated by authority figures (supervisors, law enforcement, etc.) and then treat your children the way you want to be treated! This not only reduces challenging behavior, but also models The Golden Rule~Do to others as you want them to do to you…an excellent life lesson!
Here are some ideas for your Gentle Parenting toolbox:
- Little one refusing to put on shoes before leaving the house? First, ask him why he doesn’t want to wear them. A toddler most likely won’t be able to/want to explain, but you’re modeling courtesy and opening up a dialogue, both good connection points. A three year old, though, might just surprise you with a very logical, in their own mind at least, response! Second, don’t react; just scoop the shoes up, and take them with you. If the refusal to wear shoes continues at the park/in the library/at the doctor’s office, etc. calmly tell him he can sit in your lap or in the stroller and hang out with you until he’s ready to wear his shoes.
- If a tantrum results, remember to stay calm (deep breathing, counting silently, and saying a quick prayer for guidance are all helpful!) and remain present. Some children respond well to a parent quietly talking, offering words to express what the child may be experiencing (i.e. “It’s frustrating when we have to do things we don’t like. I can see that you’re angry, and that’s okay. Let’s just sit here together for awhile.”), while other children become more upset when a parent attempts to interact with them during a tantrum and are comforted simply by your quiet presence, a gentle back rub, or playing with a Calm-Me-Jar . Getting to know your child is an important part of Gentle Parenting and will help you to ‘read’ these situations so you can be responsive to their unique needs.
- A place for Time-Outs. Typically, I advise parents to use Time-Ins instead of Time-Outs in order to connect-to-correct, but there is one area that I advise the use of Time-Outs…the ‘Time-Out Toy Box!’ When a toy is misused (i.e. thrown, used to hit, drawn on, fought over, etc) and a gentle redirection has been given, the next step for the toy is to be put in the ‘Time-Out Toy Box.’ Little ones generally find the concept of a toy being put in Time-Out rather humorous and go along with the removal without a fuss (the toy can be returned after an exaggeratedly stern warning to the toy letting it know what is expected of it and that it must listen to ‘the boss’ ~the child, lol. They love that!), but remember to communicate, listen, and be flexible. If the removal of a toy brings about a strong negative response, it may be that the inappropriate behavior was more than just over-exuberance, in which case a Time-In might be needed. Again, being in tune with your child will help you to ‘read’ the situation and respond appropriately.
- The most challenging, independent children tend to be the ones who need the most intentional parental reconnection. Strong will=Strong need! It is often the strongest-willed children who identify most closely with their parents, oddly enough. While there is no denying how difficult it can be to raise a strong-willed child, seeing the purpose behind the behavior can make the journey much more manageable. Try to view their seemingly constant testing as them doing ‘research’ on you, seeing where your strengths and weaknesses are, and discovering all the ins and outs of being you. Also, taking the time to explain why you make the decisions you do, why you said this, why you didn’t say that, answering the endless questions patiently and openly, can alleviate some of the challenging behavior by offering them insights into who you are without them having to ‘dig’ it out of you!
Today’s guest poster for ~A September to Remember~ is Leslie from THE MOM: INFORMED. Be sure to head over and check out her site!
Some autistic folks develop quite the arsenal of self soothing exercises…some spin to center themselves, some flap their arms, some repeat words, numbers or phrases. People with OCD have their own unique quirks for dealing as well.
Babies and toddlers have ways to deal with stress themselves…crying, sucking, nursing, sleeping. Babies who nurse get their non-nutritive sucking needs met by suckling the breast. That’s how they seem to best get their stress dealt with. Bottle fed babies sometimes go for thumb or pacifier sucking to meet that need. Other kids hold blankets or dolls.
The point of this post is to get you to look at pacifying and thumb-sucking and non-nutritive nursing in a new light. It isn’t something for lazy mom’s to use. It isn’t something kids use as manipulation. It starts out as a reflex that is found to be quite soothing and stress relieving. Most kids stop using a pacifier between 2 and 4 all on their own. Most kids stop sucking their thumb between 4 and 6 all on their own. A couple of great medical posting on non-nutritive sucking and why it’s normal are HERE and HERE . Did you know that thumb-sucking and pacifier sucking release endorphins(the feel good hormone)? Yeah, that’s why it is an excellent tool for babies to cope with stress. Sucking starts out as a reflex that develops into a tool.
So, before you dismiss baby’s need outside of food or even your toddlers need, remember, it is a not a bad thing. It is healthy and natural. And for the most part…most kids give them up on their own when they are old enough to understand and deal with stress in a better manner.
- THE MOM: INFORMED
- My name is Leslie and I am PASSIONATE about educating moms through pregnancy, birth and beyond. I live by this quote: “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.” I want EVERY woman to KNOW ALL OF THEIR OPTIONS. I never again want a woman to have to say, “I just didn’t know/if only I had known.”